Friday, 22 July 2016

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (5 Stars)

I don't usually let myself be put off by a film having bad reviews before I see it. In most cases I don't even bother reading reviews of films I intend to see. Sometimes, however, a film gains a certain notoriety and it's difficult to avoid hearing about it. "Sword of Destiny", or to give it its full title, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny", is a film that falls into this category. It's a sequel to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", released in 2000, which was the most famous Chinese film ever and maybe even the most successful non-English film ever, based on the number of awards it won. Suddenly the company Netflix decided to make a sequel, bypassing the established film studios. It was announced that the film would be released simultaneously online and in cinemas, giving people the choice of whether to see it in the cinema or on a small screen. As I'm sure my friends can guess, I wanted to see it in the cinema. I don't like to make compromises when it comes to film quality. However, almost every English cinema chain, including my regular cinema Cineworld, decided to boycott it. This was a misguided but understandable decision; cinemas consider Netflix to be their arch enemy, responsible for stealing their customers.

I didn't watch it immediately when it was released in February this year. I forget why. I must have been busy with something. But then I started hearing opinions about it: "It's not that good anyway". I knew that Ang Lee hadn't been persuaded to direct it, so I did have a few doubts. The negative reviews kept piling up, impossible for me to avoid, and I lost all inclination to watch "Sword of Destiny" for five months. Until today.

I admit, I sat down expecting not to like the film. I expected to be disappointed. But the first fight scene fascinated me. Then the second. Michelle Yeoh's brooding sense of duty made me fall in love with her all over again. After that Donnie Yen appeared as Silent Wolf, Michelle Yeoh's previous lover who was mentioned in the first film. And more characters. The young warriors Wei Fang and Snow Vase. An army of four warriors who accompanied Silent Wolf. Despite the relatively large number of supporting characters the film was written and directed well enough to present them clearly to the viewer leaving none of them as strangers.

I admit that "Sword of Destiny" lacks the deep spirituality of the first film, but its atmosphere drew me in, holding my attention from beginning to end. So the super smart reviewers who are cited for the Rotten Tomatoes web site only gave it a 20% rating? They don't know what they're talking about.

P. S. As always with Chinese films, I watched the film in Mandarin with English subtitles. However, I read afterwards that the film was made in English and dubbed into Chinese. I'll make sure that I watch it with English dialogue next time.

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